One step up from renting - buyers own improvements, home trust owns land - creates "affordable housing" on San Juan Island

San Juan Island Journal

San Juan Island, WA - 3/18/03 - A Mardi Gras Costume Ball — with cash prizes for best costumes, a Cajun/Creole feast, and live and silent auctions — is planned for March 22, by the San Juan Community Home Trust as its first benefit fund raiser.

It will be held in Mullis Senior Community Center.

“We’re reaching out to all islanders who support our efforts to build permanently affordable homes for working San Juan islanders. Join us for an evening of great food, and entertainment,” said Lee Sturdivant, Home Trust chairwoman.

The first project, 15 homes designed by local architect El Baylis, is scheduled to be built later this year on Carter Avenue in Friday Harbor.

The party will feature an art auction by local artists; local beef, lamb and seafood cooked by local caterers; and local entertainers with Miss Topazz as MC; songs by Dvora, and Mardi Gras samba lessons by Bill Ament.

Tickets are $25 and available at Griffin Bay Books and the San Juan
Fitness Center. Costumes are not required, Sturdivant said, and they will have masks and beads for all who come.

The Home Trust, following the successful development model used by OPAL and the Lopez Community Land Trust, is applying for money from the Washington State Housing Trust funds.

The houses are made permanently affordable by the Home Trust retaining ownership of the land and infrastructure, which removes these costs from the sale price of each home.

The combination of expensive housing and low wages on the islands makes home ownership virtually unattainable for most working people in San Juan County, say Home Trust organizers.

“Because of that high cost of housing, many middle and lower middle class families are leaving,” said Larry Soll, Home Trust treasurer. “Our teachers, medical workers, artists, retail trade personnel, even small business owners, are among those being lost.

“As families leave, the school-age population naturally shrinks. On San Juan Island, the elementary school has lost the equivalent of an entire class during the last five years in the face of a 25 percent increase in population.

"Clearly the combination of the high cost of housing and limited career opportunities does not encourage them to sink roots here. Our population turnover is very high: 40 percent of our voter registration list turns over every four years. This is very destabilizing for our community.”

Soll and other board members are rounding up auction items for the party, working to raise enough funds to keep their organization going through
the long effort of applications with the state and other major funding sources.

The preliminary design and site work has been done, the town has accepted the first plans for the development, and now the group is working on market studies, time studies, budget proposals, and other requirements for the applications.

The Home Trust has a small office in the lobby of The Computer Place on Argyle Avenue. Lovel Pratt is executive director. Call 378-5541.


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